"Where'd you get the alien from?" rang loud and clear across the street. Mortified, I didn't know where to look or how to react. Choosing to ignore the question my parents hurried on, walking swiftly past the confused little kid being hushed by her older brother.
My twin sister and I had just met our neighbours up the street, excited by prospect of new friendships we had been anticipating showing them off to our parents as we headed out on the afternoons walk. This is one of my first memories of becoming aware that I was different, and a story that has stuck with me in the 30 odd years since.
As an awakening moment in my life, it still brings back feelings of shame, confusion, bewilderment. An earth shaking moment not only of my own realisation that I was different, but also that people will have their reactions and I will be powerless to control that component of my environment. So many lessons were learnt in that single moment that it's hard to put them all down into words, a single moment that has shaped so many of my experiences since.
As a little kid, everything can be overwhelming - going to school, changing cereal, putting socks on the right feet. Everything is new to you and everything is an adventure. Meeting new people was something I loved to do - throughout my childhood there are memories of meeting new people, first introductions, afternoons spent with someone I would never see again but having the best time none the less.
This particular experience taught me some caution, an awareness that not everyone is going to react in way that was enjoyable or pleasant. That the things people say can hurt and embarrass and that my parents especially found it distasteful. I don't remember if we spoke about it later, knowing my parents I'd say we did and I'm sure they made me feel okay about it. We stayed friends with those kids, and played with them for many years to come.
It is a moment though, that will never leave me. An earliest memory that has shaped much of my human interactions since. But in sharing it frequently as an adult and revisiting it - the feelings had dissipated over the year, I no longer cringe at the word alien and still do not shy at new introductions.
One other person has called me an alien since, a sweet friend from Japan who had no concept of the intonation and who was gently admonished by her friends with a stronger grasp of the english language; even then she had said "cute alien" - I knew no harm was meant and l barely blinked an eye.
Looking different was going to be a massive part of my life and one that I would come to identify with significantly throughout the years.
Earlier this week I saw a quote: "In sharing our stories, we begin to heal." So apt. If you've been struggling with alopecia or hair loss - you can check out my latest offering especially for womxn here.